Egypt and Russia strengthen ties

(news,bbc.co.uk) - Russia is expected to offer assistance for Egypt's proposed nuclear programme as the two countries' presidents affirm their warm relations in Moscow.

Egypt's Hosni Mubarak and Vladimir Putin may also discuss trade and arms deals, Iraq, Iran's nuclear project and Israeli-Palestinian tensions.

Mr Mubarak recently urged Mr Putin to seek a third term in office, despite the constitutional limit of only two, reports Trend.

Mr Mubarak himself has served back-to-back terms since 1981.

This presidential visit comes almost a year after Vladimir Putin became the first Russian head of state to set foot in Egypt for 40 years.

It is clear that the two leaders enjoy a friendly relationship, says the BBC's Emma Simpson in Moscow.

Mr Mubarak told a Russian newspaper that his counterpart was a "very good, very clever leader; Russia needs him".

The Egyptian president is the first leader of a major country to call for President Putin to remain in power.

The two countries enjoyed close ties until the 1970s, when Egypt turned to America as its strategic foreign partner.

Mr Mubarak said relations were now developing "in a positive direction... based on solid groundwork of years of friendship and co-operation between the two countries".

Mr Mubarak has recently proposed reviving Egypt's nuclear energy programme, which was abandoned after the Chernobyl disaster 20 years ago, and it is thought the leaders will discuss nuclear co-operation.

They are also likely to talk about increased Russian arms sales to Egypt - something that will not impress the United States, Egypt's traditional arms supplier, our correspondent says.

The Middle East conflict is also on the agenda.

The Russian Foreign Ministry stressed Egypt's "leading political role in the region" and Russia's "weighty involvement" in attempts to pursue peace.

Mr Mubarak will go on to visit Kazakhstan and China, to try to boost Egypt's relations there too.

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